With the influx of smartphones, wearables, and IoT, the digital experience industry has understandably focused its efforts on strategy and delivery. As a result, content has been made available in any channel and form with responsive design, APIs, structured data, and headless CMS.

Most organizations have a clearly defined purpose, brand guidelines, and an associated content strategy. They also have the technology for distributing content. But what about the process of creating the content itself?

As Angus Edwardson points out on Boye & Co, the new reality of digital experiences has put a lot of pressure on structured content production. He writes: “It's not easy to produce content that is adaptive, can be reused across multiple channels, or mapped to the 'conversational interfaces'.”

Enter content operations, or “ContentOps” for short.

Definition of Content Operations

Before we move on, we must take into account that no content is possible without:

  • Someone producing it (people)
  • Somehow it being planned, produced, and reviewed (process)
  • Something supporting its creation, organization, and analysis (technology)

The definition of “content operations” is thus:

“Content operations is a principle between strategy and delivery that integrates people, process, and technology in the art of creating content.”

ContentOps is an integrating production concept within a wider group of content processes that includes strategy and delivery. ContentOps includes every systematic effort to connect 1) people involved with content to 2) editorial processes and 3) organization of the content with technology.

Learn more: Top 3 ContentOps Mistakes to Avoid »

The need for these three aspects to work together on efficient quality content production is paramount in an age where brands are expected to be omnipresent, interactive, and delivering excellent customer journeys.

In the intersection between people, process, and technology we find ContentOps:

ContentOps venn diagram

GatherContent has collected several thoughts from industry experts on the nature of ContentOps, including MailChimp and Deane Barker, the originator of the term.

The common denominator is an emphasis on organizing, producing, and managing content coupled with the integration of the three key ingredients of people, process, and technology.

The industry experts also stress analysis and the goals of ContentOps, which are:

  • Higher efficiency
  • Quality assurance
  • Replicability
  • Scalability

Barker himself writes: “Content operations is concerned with everything between content strategy and content management. Any form of content manipulation and analysis would be managed by a content operations process.”

Learn more: Leverage Content Operations in Your Organization »

Systematizing Your Content Production

As we have seen, content operations put everything from your content production sphere into a system. The principle is to integrate the three involved aspects to achieve the goals. For instance: the production of an email, a person profile, or an article may have several chains consisting of:

  • People (copywriter, editor, subject matter expert, legal advisor, senior stakeholder)
  • Processes (strategy, pitch meeting, workshops, writing, filming, recording, reviewing, verifying, greenlighting)
  • Technologies (email provider, CMS, CRM, data storage, messaging apps, marketing automation tools, creative suites)

All these steps and more may be involved before the delivery to a single channel. Often this will result in a slow and demanding content production process.

ContentOps encourages your digital project team to map existing people, processes, and technologies in order to discover both strong and weak links. It also lets you figure out how to communicate efficiently across departments, and how to optimize the structured content for delivery in required channels.

The person chiefly responsible for ContentOps will be like a conductor. Where previous content production may have consisted of a cacophony of strings, horns, and percussion, the organizing of all the elements into an orchestra results in a symphony.

And this symphony of ContentOps will be ready to deliver beautiful tunes and experiences to the audience.

Guide: How to Future Proof Your Digital Experiences

First published 22 January 2020, updated 16 January 2024.

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